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Pride before the fall…

Fall is here. The football season is brewing with some crazy oddities. Some big managerial changes maybe. Some investigation and criminal proceedings too. Not for abysmal football, but actual assault on one’s dignity. Tough times, challenging times – the ball keeps rolling. Also, we do not actually have fall in India. Other than waterfalls and saree falls.

humpty dumpty

Well, the fall we could address here is diving. Historically, tricking the referee is borrowed from older history books. Or the parchment at the time. Nothing groundbreaking like the high-press or playing out from the back! Getting the decision in your favour required a drop in sportsmanship.

For some, staying on their feet was about pride. Or maintaining grace even in defeat. The small battles fought well. There have been several training ground stories, where there is no referee, and players that regularly look for contact or a foul are seen roughing it out – or more so actually being footballers.

Riding challenges, expecting the lunge, changing direction or making a move. Rather than collapse. But the competitive edge? Fans cheering, so much on the line, dangerous area of the pitch, time-running down game-changing decision!! Well, better to go down.

Recently, we have seen a lot of horrible dives and dramatic performances from talented players. But let us not go down that road. They get shamed week-in and week out, and have monthly and annual satirical awards too (Fallon d’or). The antics continue and never phases them. They are even known for it.

Who could blame them? The pressure is intense. And more so when you have a reputation. The line between the actual foul or simulation gets muddled. Then sometimes the players need to adapt to certain referees. Phew!

So pride then, of holding off the tackle, or brushing off the clean slide to dispossess the ball. Or staying on your feet, trying to gain balance, awkward and cumbersome steps. Nice try, No foul. For next training session – try and improve ball control when heels being clipped or holding a still head when being jerked around for the right pass. All in the game. It gets difficult to judge. Anything to win! Yep anything.

In the streets or on the training ground you would hold your own. “No foul, I did not ask for it” “Play on”.

Let us cherish those who have that streak to stay on their feet. It is to be admired. Messi does lead the way here too. I can think of Roy Keane from some time back. But then he did not even acknowledge the referee’s existence most of the time. Do any other come to mind? Wayne Rooney for a lot of his initial years was just too strong, and too determined to go down. The Brazilian Ronaldo too, some even attributing that pride in him for the many injuries.

It does take a toll when you try to keep balance at a speed, with the body weight shifting all over, and ankles at the wrong angles. The safer bet does seem to be to let go. But lets hope to see more who like the view from being upright and on two feet, and the skill they use to stay that way with the ball.

For those more interested maybe Photographer and Web designer Dick van Mersbergen can be an inspiration. He presided over the diving Hall of Shame . Van Mersbergen’s database includes a total of 231 dives, from 2009 and 2010. While most of the remainder also took place in the 2000s, a few go back several decades. Must have gotten tedious and made him stop. Now you have top 10, 20, or even 50 – that dive, before the fall.


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